Colombia to Panama – Five Days Sailing in the San Blas Islands

There are more direct ways to get from Colombia to Panama than taking a five day sailing trip through the San Blas Islands… but I’m sure it’s the most enjoyable option.

So, we set sail with three other couples to live the sailing life in the Caribbean.
This sailing trip was an opportunity to disconnect from the world for a while. As a freelance writer with clients from all over the world, I often find myself answering emails and Skype messages at all hours of the day and being always connected to what’s happening online. It always makes me a little nervous to disconnect – what if I get a very important email while I am gone?
I set up an email autoresponder – “Sorry I can’t answer your message until next Monday, I’m on a five day sailing trip in the Caribbean.” and hoped for the best. At first it felt strange not checking my messages, but after the initial withdrawal period I started to relax, enjoy and really live in the moment and be aware of my surroundings.
And oh what amazing surroundings they were!
Unfortunately, the first 30 hours of beautiful Caribbean ocean views were only briefly glimpsed as I lifted my head up from my position of lying flat on the seat of the boat – trying desperately not to vomit. Yes, I am one of those who is prone to seasickness and even though I took a dose of Mareol before the voyage it didn’t seem to do a damn thing. While everyone else was enjoying themselves, I was violently heaving up the contents of my stomach every time I tried to stand up or focus on anything.

But it was worth it. So worth it.

Once the initial stint of sailing across the rough open ocean was over, we reached the San Blas islands where the water was calm and peaceful. I stood up, weak, sweaty and shaky and peered over the edge of the boat only to feast my eyes on paradise.
The San Blas Islands embody the typical cliche that everyone pictures when they imagine a Caribbean Island – shimmering turquoise water, sugary-white sand, palm trees swaying in the breeze, intense sunshine. There were moments when I had to pinch myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming, as it felt like I was walking through a desktop background stock photo. (If you want to download any of these photos and use them as your wallpaper, we don’t mind!)
It didn’t take us long to stop knowing or caring what time of day it was, or even what day of the week it was. We stopped off at several different tiny islands, each with not much more than sand, palm trees and perhaps a small shop or two. Our days were filled with snorkeling, sunbathing, drinking beer and playing football and basketball on the beach.
We were four couples (the others were from England, the Netherlands and Germany) which was nice because we could socialize as a group but also break into our small groups of two.
The cook on the boat was French and she whipped up some pretty delicious food considering the limited supplies and cooking equipment. After every meal we would take turns washing the dishes by dipping them off the end of the boat into the ocean.
At night we would fall asleep to the gentle rocking of the waves and every morning we would wake up with a new island to explore.
Although it was only for five days, I really started to love the sailing life. Everything was so much simpler out there – no stress, no emails to answer, no schedule – nothing but the stars and the wide open ocean.
A journey like that stays with you for quite a while. (For me, that meant literally. My inner ear had gotten so used to compensating for the motion of the boat that for several days after we arrived in Panama City I still felt like I was swaying back and forth, rocking on the ocean waves.)
When I got back to civilization I hadn’t missed anything too urgent and I quickly got back into my normal work schedule, except with a new undercurrent of calm running deep within me that can only come from floating around in the Caribbean for a while.
Have you been to the San Blas Islands before? Would you take a multi-day sailing trip? Do you get seasick too? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below. 

Kelly Dunning

A Canadian freelance writer with a love of art, culture, literature and adventure, Kelly loves exploring foreign lands and expressing her experiences through the power of the written word.

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